24 06, 2017

Does My Baby Still Need to Feed at Night?

June 24th, 2017|Categories: Baby Sleep|Tags: , |

Baby still need to feed at night? Here’s how to tell!

You know the drill: you have spent an hour trying to get your baby to bed for the night. You haul your exhausted body to bed, only to be woken up a few hours later to the sound of crying.

Climbing out of your warm covers, you scoop up your baby and try to feed her. She takes a few sucks and then is back asleep. Laying her back down, you try to return to sleep but you can’t-you know she will be back up in an hour to repeat the process.

And so you start to wonder;

“does my baby really need allllll of these feeds, or am I being used as a human pacifier” ?

Whether I’m teaching workshops, doing my free Q & A sessions or working with private clients, it’s a common question.
Usually it’s followed up with; ” I’m totally fine with feeding-if she truly needs it-but how do I know? She never refuses a feed and it seems to be the only way I can get her back down”.

It’s rare for a baby to not feed at least a little when offered a breast or bottle. Even older babies, who may be waking every 1-2 hours often still eat when offered. But this doesn’t always mean that they are hungry. Confusing, right?

So let’s clarify something.

A baby waking at night feeding for true feeds, and, waking at night and wanting to eat because the baby is used to falling to sleep while feeding, are two separate things.

You can have a baby that wakes to feed at night to satisfy true hunger and still knows how to fall asleep independently. The two are not mutually exclusive because sleep training does not mean forced, premature night weaning.

However, if your baby is only feeding as a means of getting back to sleep and isn’t taking full feeds, this is usually referred to as a sleep association, prop or crutch.

Confused yet?
But wait, there’s more.

It’s common for children to combine these during the night; sometimes waking because of a sleep association and other times needing to be fed.

How does a tired mom decide which category her child falls into?

To answer this question, we need to examine a few factors.

Factors To Consider

Before we start, we need to consider your baby’s;

  • age
  • growth, weight percentile (both current and past)
  • general health, and any medical concerns
  • daytime sleep routine and amounts
  • bedtime
  • whether the child is falling asleep feeding or not
  • feeding routine and
  • intake amounts; day vs. night

When I work with my private clients, I also get their opinion on where they feel they are in their breastfeeding journey (if applicable), as well as their feelings/instincts on whether the feeds are needed out of hunger or wanted as a means of getting back to sleep. (To read more about sleep associations click here.)

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It is also important to factor in any medical professional’s opinion that you value such as the child’s doctor and/or an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).

While we want to get a complete picture, I do find that most of the time, mama knows best. Sometimes there have been one-too-many opinions and my moms are feeling a bit overwhelmed and are just looking for some guidance. I know you’re tired, but don’t discount your own gut instinct.

How Many Night Feeds Per Age

Let’s start by looking at some common feeding patterns. Please note: this is just an average. Every child is unique and you need to consider all the factors mentioned above.
Case in point; I’ve seen 4 month olds go 11-12 hours at night without a feed, and other 4 month olds that needed 3 feeds throughout the night. But here are some average night feeding amounts.

0-3 Months: Feeds every 2-3 hours

4-5 Months: Bedtime feed, plus 1-3 more feeds through the night

6-8 Months: Bedtime feed, plus 1 feed

9-11+ Months: Bedtime feed, 0 night feeds

If your baby is feeding more frequently than listed above, she may have developed a sleep association with the breast or bottle. Use the following checklist to help you narrow it down more.

Night feeds may be needed if:

  • Your baby is younger than 8 months
  • Your baby can fall asleep independently
  • Eating solids are not a part of your baby’s regular daytime routine
  • Your baby takes a full feed at night
  • Your baby is going 1.5-2.5 hours between milk feeds during the day, and takes a significant feed at each one
  • Your baby goes back to sleep easily and quickly after a night feed
  • Crying escalates and continues for a long time if you try to wait to feed your baby at night
  • Your baby is regularly waking up at similar times for a night feed (eg: 12:30AM and 4:30AM)

When Are Feeds Not Needed?

A feed may not be needed if:

  • Your baby is 8 months or older
  • Your baby frequently falls asleep at the breast or bottle
  • There are a wide variety of solids being consumed, 3 times a day
  • Your baby only nurses or drinks to get themselves back to sleep
  • Your baby is going 3-4 hours during the day between milk feeds
  • Your baby stays awake for 20+ minutes after a night feed, and is happy
  • Your baby returns to sleep (after fussing/babbling for a while) if they wake at night and you don’t feed them
  • You describe your baby as a “snacker” during the day but takes long feeds at night
  • There is no consistency in night wakings; sometimes she sleeps until 3am, other times she feeds at 11pm.

Still Not Sure?

“Ugh! I’ve read everything and I’m still not sure-does my baby need to feed at night, or not?”

If after reading the above categories, you still are undecided on what your child needs, I recommend that you continue to offer night feeds but begin to document your child’s night wakings.

For 7- 10 days, record/log their daytime feeds and amounts, as well as night time wakings and intakes each time you offer the bottle or breast.

Once finished, review the information you have collected. What do you see?

Do you notice which feeds are larger than others?

Are there any similar patterns from night to night?

Babies four months and older may fall into a pattern of a feed at bedtime, and then two more after that during the night. Using that information you may find that the bigger/longer feeds may be the “true” ones and the shorter feeds may be the ones that are the sleep associations.

If you find there are several more feeds than that (and there are no health concerns or weight gain issues), you can talk to your IBCLC or doctor about weaning some of the extra night feeds.

Want to discuss the results of your night feed logs? Join the Baby Sleep 101 Facebook page to participate in the weekly Q & A session, or book a private mini-consultation from the A La Carte section to spend more time in a one-on-one discussion.

P.S. Don’t forget to download your FREE copy of the Baby Sleep 101 sleep guide. Get it here.

 

 

16 12, 2014

The 2-1 Nap Transition: How to Handle It Successfully

December 16th, 2014|Categories: Nap Transitions, Naps, Toddler Sleep|Tags: , , , , , |

2-1 Nap Transitions; Signs, Tips and Advice

There comes a time in a toddler’s life when it’s time to transition from two naps to one. I frequently get asked about this transition, even from clients whose baby is only 4 or 6 months old. The 2-1 nap transition has a well-deserved reputation for being difficult as children adjust to the longer activity times.  Here are my tips to help make this nap transition go smoothly.

2-1 Nap Transition Tip #1 : Wait Until It’s Time

Is your child really ready to transition to one nap? Although many people believe that as soon as a child turns one, they can handle being on one nap, this just isn’t the case. The vast majority of children naturally transition somewhere between 15-18 months of age. Forcing the 2-1 nap transition before the child is ready can result in a child becoming very overtired.

2-1 Nap Transition Tip #2: Determine If It’s a Milestone or Transition Time

When toddlers are learning how to pull up, cruise and walk, the new physical skills can lead to overtiredness and nap resistance. Since these milestones tend to happen around the one year mark, it can easily be misinterpreted as a sign to transition to one nap. Review what skills your little one has been practicing lately. If there has been new developments, then don’t rush to transition just yet. What your child needs is more sleep right now as they recover from all the new exercises ;), and bringing the bedtime up earlier will be more beneficial than switching to one nap.

2-1 Nap Transition Tip #3: Know the Signs

If your child is between 15-18 months and they’re not going through a milestone, the next step is to determine if they’re showing the signs to transition. Very often, we will see one or more of the following…

  • The child starts taking a long time to fall asleep for the morning nap which then pushes the afternoon nap too late
  • The child easily takes a long morning nap, but then refuses the afternoon nap
  • The child plays right through either the morning or afternoon nap and doesn’t sleep
  • Early morning wakings star to occur that are not related to being overtired, discomfort or outside disruptions.
2-1 Nap Transition Tip #4: Hang on to Two Naps as Long As Possible

This nap transition tends to be the hardest of all for children to handle, so if you can hang onto the two naps for even a few more weeks, do it. The older your child is, the easier the move will be on their bodies. Even though they may seem to handle the transition well for a few days, it doesn’t mean that after a few weeks it will be the same story. Adjusting to extended wake periods after the transition can be very tiring for children and over time,  a sleep debt can begin to accumulate and rear its head. After a few weeks, night wakings and early morning risings can start to occur.

2-1 Nap Transition Tip#5: When Ready, Move Quickly

If your child is ready to move to one nap, move them to a mid day nap as soon as possible. Yes, it will be a stretch and they will be grumpy, but moving the nap this far right away helps twofold:

  • It will help to close the gap to bedtime, even if the nap is short, thus helping to prevent early morning wakings from a too-late bedtime.
  • The nap is appropriately timed with the body’s circadian rhythms and helps to ensure the most restorative nap possible.
2-1 Nap Transition Tip #6:  Keep Bedtime Early!

It’s really important that bedtime is early, super early in fact for the first few weeks. Even if your child consistently takes a solid 2+ hour nap as soon as they transition; adjusting to the longer wake periods takes some time, so respecting their need to go to sleep early for the night is essential.

By following these tips, you will help to keep your toddler well-rested as they transition from 2-1 naps and adjust to the longer days. If you find that you need more help with your toddler’s sleep than this article provides, purchase a consultation to have private, one-on-one help to resolve the issues quickly!

Has your toddler transitioned yet? If so, share your experience in the comments below and remember to join our weekly Facebook Q and A sessions to chat with other tired parents!

15 05, 2014

Will Starting Solids Help Your Baby Sleep Better?

May 15th, 2014|Categories: Baby Sleep, Guest Post, Sleeping Through the Night|Tags: , , |

Baby and Child Feeding  Advice

The following is a guest post written by child-feeding expert, Kristen Yarker. A little background on how she came to write this article for me…

My second child is a much more cautious eater  than my first was. Whereas my daughter would try everything right away, my son takes a very long time to try new foods. Mealtimes were becoming increasingly frustrating for both of us and I was feeling a bit lost on how I should approach things with him. Like many of you looking for sleep advice, I was conflicted by all I was reading and the contradicting advice I was getting. What I was looking for was evidence-based and expert advice on what approach I should be taking with him.

Enter Kristen.

I came across Kristen’s website and looked around, signed up for the newsletter and then left it at that. Then my son had a few more meals spent crying and turning his head away from every food I offered. That was the final straw and I went back to her website and purchased her e-book, Provide, Trust, Love (And Then Introduce New Food).  Her book was fantastic and exactly what I was looking for. It completely identified my son to a “T”  and gave me a detailed plan on how to approach my situation.

Because I was so impressed with the advice and the methodology (hint: it’s a lot like what I do with my clients when we change sleep habits!), I asked her if she would like to comment on some questions that I frequently get from clients on feeding. Here is her first post.

 Kristen Yarker, Child-Feeding Expert

I’m a child-feeding expert. Since 2008  I’ve helped Moms and Dads in BC be confident that they’re providing good nutrition for their children today, and instilling a life-long LOVE of healthy eating. Now I’m providing online seminars and an e-book so that parents everywhere can have the success that I’ve helped local families achieve. www.kristenyarker.com

Here’s the answer to the first of a number of questions that I’ll be answering.

   “My baby is large/small for their age and the pediatrician told me to start solids early because they aren’t sleeping well at night. Is this a good idea?”

I understand why Moms and Dads (desperate for some sleep) grasp on to the myth that feeding a baby solid foods will make them sleep through the night. However, it is a myth. Feeding your baby solid foods won’t make your baby sleep through the night.

 Sleep and Eating Milestones

It’s true that some babies start sleeping for longer stretches through the night at about the same time that they start solid foods. But it’s not that the solid foods have caused the sleeping. It’s that for many babies, the developmental stage when we start to feed them solid foods coincides with the developmental stage when they start sleeping for longer periods of time. Sorry exhausted Moms and Dads, it’s not the solid foods causing longer sleep.

Size Doesn’t Matter

Furthermore, big babies don’t need to be fed solid foods early. There’s no evidence to support starting solids early for babies who are at the top end of the growth curve. Breast milk and formula are very rich. And, your baby is likely an expert at breastfeeding or formula feeding by this age. Therefore, continuing exclusively breastfeeding or formula feeding until about 6 months is recommended (the same as average-size babies).

Also, small babies don’t need to be fed solid foods early. There’s no evidence to support starting solids early for babies who are on the small end of the growth curve. As I mentioned above, breast milk and formula are very rich and your baby is an expert at breastfeeding or formula feeding by this age. So continue to exclusively breastfeed or formula feed your baby until about 6 months (the same as average-size babies).

Wait Until 6 Months

In summary, starting solids early won’t provide big babies or small babies with extra nutrition. Nor will it make your baby sleep through the night.  Introduce solid foods when your baby is about 6 months old.

Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD

Child-Feeding Expert

Helping Moms and Dads support their picky eaters to try new foods on their own (without being forceful or sneaky)

 

www.kristenyarker.com

www.facebook.com/VitaminKNutritionConsulting

 

Did you feel your child was waking at night because they needed solids? Did you start solids before 6 months? How did it go? Share your comments below. And if you liked this article and found it helpful, please share it with others.

28 01, 2014

Sleep Training Series Part 2: Understanding Crying

January 28th, 2014|Categories: Baby Sleep, Sleep Training|Tags: , , , , |

Welcome to Part Two in our Sleep Training series. If you haven’t already done so, please read part one as it contains very important steps that you will want to implement before sleep training.

Baby Sleep Training and Crying: An Emotion to Be Supported

Many times parents come to me, at their end of their rope. They are beyond tired, frustrated, constantly arguing with their spouse and impatient with their children.

They know that their lack of sleep isn’t letting them be the best parent they could be, but they have put off any sleep training because they are worried their child will cry.

Sometimes this can translate in a parent’s mind that their child will feel abandoned or scared. But crying doesn’t necessarily mean lonely or fear, it can also mean they are angry and exhausted. It’s important to have the appropriate response to each circumstance.

If your family is so exhausted that you can’t even function, then you need to make changes.

We do need to be realistic though; you are changing the way they have fallen asleep for months or years. Adults rarely joyfully embrace change, so why would we expect our little ones to?

In general your child isn’t going to be happy about it, especially when they’re tired. But I don’t want you to be scared of their emotions. Protesting, being frustrated, voicing complaints is normal.

Supporting it, without suppressing it, is healthy.

We want to show our children that we are there for them, that they can express themselves and we are there to support them through their learning.

Cry Me A River

So this is the big issue that makes sleep training so hard for all of us.

Everyone wants to know: How-Much-Will-My-Child-Cry?

If you’re wondering why I’m not saying “if your child will cry”, it’s because, in the vast majority of cases, a child cries at some point during sleep training. Of course, there are some children who don’t cry at all, or only fuss, but they are in the minority.

It would be great if I could promise you no tears in every situation, but that’s just not realistic. Saying that there is a sure fire ‘no-cry’ sleep training method is misleading.

Crying When Tired

Let’s think about the crying a child does during sleep training from another perspective.

Let’s say you are in a foreign country and everyone speaks a different language. You have no idea what they’re saying, but you do know that they’re saying something. Would you just assume the worst and fear they are plotting your demise?

Hopefully not.

You would probably use the context of the situation, their facial expressions, body language, your location and other factors to make a reasonable judgment call in regards to what they’re trying to communicate to you.

The goes for your child when he or she is crying. You need to use the context of the situation and make the appropriate call as to what they’re saying.

If they have a sleep debt from being massively overtired, and you are not longer rocking/holding/bouncing/feeding to sleep/replacing the soother a million times a night/driving all over town and trying to avoid red lights (think the movie Speed), then it’s reasonable to assume that they are crying because they’re frustrated. I often joke with my parents and say they are likely swearing at you in baby language. 😉

Sleep Training Does Not Equal Bad Parenting

You are not a bad parent for deciding it’s time to help your child learn healthy sleep strategies.

Every family is different and whether you want to start before any bad habit emerge or your ‘tools’  have stopped working, when you feel it’s time to change the situation, do it with confidence. Confidence in both your child and yourself.

You are not making your child cry, you are allowing them to express themselves.

You are helping them to learn a new skill that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

You are being empathetic and understanding that they are frustrated, tired and just want to sleep, while giving them time and opportunity to practice these new skills.

You trust and believe in your child that they can learn new habits.

Sleep is one of the fundamental building blocks of human health. Not being well-rested is unhealthy for both your child and yourself.

Crying does not lead to health issues, but sleep deprivation does.

When you remove the sleep props or sleep associations that your child relied on to fall asleep, they will understandably be upset. But by setting up a great sleep routine, making sure your child is napping well, and keeping bedtime early, you will help to miminze the amout of frustration crying that your child does. 

Worries, And Fears and Tears, Oh My!

But of course, everyone worries. I understand because I too, was also concerned when I first contemplated sleep training.

I had read every sleep training-shaming, mom-scaring, studies-out-of-context-taking, article out there. I thought I was a bad mom for not being able to handle the sleep deprivation. And so for a long time, I allowed my fear to override logic and health needs.

Fear can stop us in our tracks before we can even take a step forward. Our brains go into overdrive and imagine worse-case scenarios.  But it’s important to not deny your child quality sleep and therefore optimal health, because of what may happen. Often, parents’ worries far exceeds the reality and a child doesn’t cry for as long or as hard as they thought.

It may ease your mind to know, as it did mine, that all the research shows that sleep training is safe and effective.

It is not child abuse, it’s not selfish and it does not lead to any long term (or short term) damage. (However, chronic sleep deprivation does.)

Want to help your baby sleep better at night, while minimizing crying? Download this FREE sleep guide. 

But what parent loves to hear their child cry? None of us. However, crying happens. Along with diaper blow outs and gross-smelling spit ups. It is unrealistic, not to mention extremely stressful, to entertain the idea of never allowing your baby to cry.

Crying, especially when overtired is an emotion and a need for sleep.

And remember, you will minimize the amount of crying by following a great sleep routine before sleep training.

But Really, How Much Crying Will There Be?

So back to the main question-how long will the crying last? We’ve heard it before, but it needs to be said again: every child is different.  There are many factors that influence how long a method starts to work such as:

  • age
  • method
  • personality
  • consistency of parent implementation
  • quality of day routine
  • sleep debt amount
  • how many attempts at sleep training were previously tried

These factors will all influence how long they sleep training will take, which makes it difficult to provide exact answers on the time a child takes to learn new sleep habits.

I can however, offer you an estimate of how long each method takes to start seeing change and we will look at those in the future posts of this series. You can begin with Part Three: No-Cry Sleep Training.

Changing sleep habits is hard work, especially in the beginning, but when it’s time for you to make that change, know that your child is very capable of learning how to sleep more solidly on their own.

Want more tips to help your baby sleep better? Download the FREE  guide; Sleeping Through The Night, 5 Tips Every Parent Needs to Know.

 Ready to get started on helping your family have healthy, restorative sleep now? Please see our consultation page to select your package.
6 01, 2014

Sleep Training Series:Part 1

January 6th, 2014|Categories: Sleep Training|Tags: , , , |

People who say they sleep like a baby usually don’t have one.  Leo J. Burke

 You’re tired. Your child is tired. Nobody is happy. You have decided that it’s time to hunker down and commit to sleep training/sleep coaching/sleep shaping (it goes by many names) to help your child sleep through the night and take restorative naps.

But where to start? You’ve read a thousand books and each one contradicts the other. It’s enough to make anyone frustrated.

Thinking about Sleep Training?

Folks who don’t face sleep issues may scoff at the idea of ‘teaching’ a child to fall asleep, but what many people fail to realize is that falling asleep unassisted is a learnt skill. And just like anything in parenting, if you want to teach your child a new skill, it is going to require time, patience and a ton of consistency.

Every sleep training method can work, but only if you are 100% committed to it. How can you commit to something you know nothing about? Well you’re in luck! This article will be the first in a series of posts examining the most common sleep training techniques from gradual to the most direct, along with the pros and cons with each method.

Let’s start at the beginning…

The first place to begin before any sleep training begins is with a solid pre-sleep routine. I often refer to this as a wind down routine. A wind down routine is a short series of steps that go through with your child right before their nap and/or bedtime. It is fairly consistent from day to day and between naps and bedtime. This vital step helps to cue your child’s body and brain that it’s time to relax and get ready to sleep. In fact, a wind down routine is so important for great sleep that it’s even recommend for adults.

A wind down routine might include one or more of the following, depending on your child’s age and if it’s before a nap or before bedtime;

  • diaper change or potty time,
  • nursing/bottle,
  • pajamas,
  • brushing teeth,
  • reading a book together,
  • prayers/quiet song,
  • rocking/ cuddling
  • bed
The Next Critical Step…

So now you have the perfect wind down routine and are using it consistently. Excellent! The next important step is focus on your child’s daytime routine.  Ensure that your child is on a solid routine or about to begin one. That means he or she is taking restorative naps (most children 3 and under still need to nap) and has a relatively early bedtime.

 

Want more tips to help your baby sleep through the night? Download the FREE Sleeping Through the Night guide.

If the child’s routine isn’t on track, then you are not going to have success sleep training. Why? Because you can’t sleep train a chronically overtired child. You may be teaching them to fall asleep independently, but they will still continue to wake up at night, take short naps and be miserable because their routine is off and bedtime is too late.

This is a really important point, so it’s worth repeating : 

If you want to solve all sleep issues, then your child’s daytime routine needs to be addressed too.

So therefore make sure you child is napping well during the day and going to bed on time each night. Sleep begets sleep and what happens during the day, has a direct effect on the quality of your child’s night sleep.

Know Thyself

Once you have a wind down routine in place and a great daytime routine, you will want to begin thinking about what your parenting philosophy is and what kind of person you are. What does this have to do with helping your child learn great sleep skills?

Everything!

In order for sleep training to be effective, you have to be extremely consistent day in and day out-for several weeks.  In order to teach a child a skill, they need to practice it over and over again in the same manner every time. I really can’t emphasize how important the consistency factor is. Please don’t skim over that part and think it won’t apply to your child.

It will.

This means you have think about your personality and your parenting philosophy.  Understanding your feelings in regards to parenting, will help you to follow a method you really and truly believe in and feel comfortable with.

It’s great that your cousin’s-best friend’s-brother’s -sister-in-law had success with crying-it-out after 4 nights. But if you find it difficult to listen to your child cry for two minutes alone, then it’s that method isn’t right for you. It’s unlikely you won’t be able to follow through for one night, let alone four. Choosing a method that fits with your comfort level and personality is the first step to seeing success.

Know Thy Child

The same holds true for your child as well. What is your child’s temperament and personality? Can your child easily adapt to new situations or are they more stubborn strong-willed and persistent? Not only should you pick a method that you can stick to, but you need to also pick something what is best for your child.

Unfortunately, sometimes the two are not the same.  If you have a strong-willed child, then it’s even more important that you pick a suitable method that you can sustain for the long haul.

So there you have the beginning steps that are vital for successful sleep training. It’s important to begin with these steps first so that you can choose which method you need.

Sometimes though, just establishing a great wind down routine, a  consistent and well-timed daytime routine and an age appropriate bedtime is all you need to solve your sleep issues.  If it isn’t, then stay tuned. In the upcoming articles, I will explore the most common sleep training methods. You can read the next article in Part Two: Understanding Crying.

Remember to pick up your free Sleeping Through the Night guide, here.

Don’t want to wait and too tired to read? Get started on helping your family have healthy, restorative sleep now and see our consultation page to select your package.